Queen Boudica: Celtic Queen of Iron Age Roman Britain

Queen Boudica: Celtic Queen of Iron Age Roman Britain

"...a terrible disaster occurred in Britain. Two cities were sacked, eighty thousand of the Romans and of their allies perished, and the island was lost to Rome. Moreover, all this ruin was brought upon the Romans by a woman, a fact which in itself caused them the greatest shame....But the person who was chiefly instrumental in rousing the natives and persuading them to fight the Romans, the person who was thought worthy to be their leader and who directed the conduct of the entire war, was Buduica, a Briton woman of the royal family and possessed of greater intelligence than often belongs to women....In stature she was very tall, in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of her eye most fierce, and her voice was harsh; a great mass of the tawniest hair fell to her hips; around her neck was a large golden necklace; and she wore a tunic of divers colours over which a thick mantle was fastened with a brooch. This was her invariable attire." -Dio, Roman History (LXII.1-2)


The Iron Age is usually supposed to have come to an end when the Romans invaded Britain. Boudica was a Celtic queen of the Iceni tribe in England who led a rebellion against Roman occupation around 60 A.D.

All of the existing information about her comes from Roman scholars, particularly Tacitus and Cassius Dio, little is known about her early life.

She married Prasutagas, king of the Iceni tribe. The Iceni, at the time of the Roman invasion, were a wealthy people, as evidenced by hordes of precious metals that have been found, its leaders had been minting coins for nearly a century.

When the Romans conquered southern England in A.D. 43, most Celtic tribes were forced to submit, but the Romans let Prasutagas continue in power as a forced ally of the Empire. When he died without a male heir in A.D. 60, the Romans annexed his kingdom and confiscated his family’s land and property.

Boudica led a revolt against the Romans approximately 17 years after Rome’s invasion of Britain that resulted in the destruction of at least two Roman settlements, including Londinium (modern London) and almost drove Rome's imperial occupation forces off the island.

The battle over, Tacitus said that Boudica took poison to avoid being captured, while Dio said that she died of illness (possibly from a wound).

Evidence from the time of the rebellion of imported grains that imply one or more failed local harvests, which, coupled with the Roman demand for taxes paid in produce, suggest that hunger may have also played a role in the uprising.

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